March 26, 2023

IDOT campaign reminds motorists about cost of littering

Spring causing the snow to melt means the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) crews are out in force picking up litter.

“While IDOT is committed to maintaining a positive impression of Illinois by having our maintenance teams collect litter from our roadsides, we need your help,” Acting Illinois Transportation Secretary Omer Osman said in a statement. “If the warmer temperatures make you tempted to toss that food wrapper or pop can out your car window, please don’t. Trash is more than just an eyesore. It has real, negative impacts on both the environment and our communities.”

Pam Osborne, executive director of Keep Northern Illinois Beautiful in Rockford, says that throwing trash and cigarette butts out car windows and dumping takeout containers in parking lots winds up costing Illinois taxpayers $6.1 million a year in cleanup costs.

“It is so disappointing to see trash all over the city,” Osborne said. “Maybe people think what they are getting rid of is not much and it really doesn’t matter, but you multiply that by thousands of people and it comes out to a lot of trash.”

This year the trash problem has only gotten worse because of COVID-19, she says.

“People are throwing masks in parking lots and throwing gloves,” she said. “These items have a lot of bacteria in them. And somebody has to pick them up.”

Osborne says IDOT’s campaign to “Think Before You Throw” is the right idea.

“It’s just not that hard to dispose of trash properly,” Osborne said. “It is a matter of developing the habit.”

Osborne suggests a simple solution.

“In the car, have a bag for garbage. Then when you get home, toss the bag in the trash can before you go in your front door,” she says.

Keep Northern Illinois Beautiful works with school groups to get kids to bring the anti-littering message home to their parents.

“The kids get it,” Osborne says. “They understand how trash pollutes waterways and kills plants and animals.”

Plastics give off toxins as they break down. The longer they sit outside in the weather, the more they look and smell like food to birds and animals, Osborne says. Fish and animals can’t digest plastic. They eat it and they die.

On April 24, Keep Illinois Beautiful has its annual volunteer clean-up day, Osborne says. Individuals, businesses and school groups are encouraged to sign up and lend a hand.

For information, visit Keep Northern Illinois Beautiful at or call Keep Northern Illinois Beautiful at 815-637-1343.

This article was originally posted on IDOT campaign reminds motorists about cost of littering

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